Hungarian army hold exercises on border as migrant wave surges

2015-09-10 18:57
In Roszke, Hungarian police control a migrant camp near the border line with Serbia. (Matthias Schrader, AP)

In Roszke, Hungarian police control a migrant camp near the border line with Serbia. (Matthias Schrader, AP)

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Budapest - Hungary began an army exercise along its border with Serbia on Thursday to reinforce a newly-constructed fence that has failed to stop a surge of migrants arriving from the Middle East.

The Defence Ministry did not directly link the border exercise with the ongoing migrant crisis, but it appeared to coincide with a plan by conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban to deploy the army to the porous southern frontier in the second half of September.

On Orban's orders, Hungary built a 175km barricade on the southern border with Serbia. Completed in late August, the barricade's fencing and coils of razor wire have so far failed to slow migrant arrivals, with their numbers surging over the past two weeks.

Police logged a new record for daily arrivals on Wednesday, with 3 321 people registered after entering illegally from Serbia.

On Hungary's western border, Austrian railway company OeBB stopped all cross-border train connections to and from Hungary, saying that the large amounts of refugees and migrants travelling west have led to a "massive overload" in Austria.

Hungary, a main entry point to the EU, has seen more than 145 000 refugees cross its borders since the beginning of this year, according to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

During his state of the union address on Wednesday, Juncker said most of Europe's incoming refugees were fleeing the war in Syria, the terror of Islamic State militants in Libya or dictatorship in Eritrea.

Austria

Migrant arrivals have also risen in Austria, the next stop after Hungary for those travelling along the so-called Balkan migration route from Turkey, across the Greek islands and mainland and on through Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary.

Austria's OeBB asked that aid volunteers and bus companies to stop bringing people to the country's train stations, which are already full with those who arrived from Hungary and are seeking to travel on to Germany.

The company plans to continue running shuttle trains from the Austro-Hungarian border to Vienna and added that it will continue to offer sleeping quarters at the capital's Westbahnhof station.

Authorities counted 3 700 refugees in the Austrian border town of Nickelsdorf on Thursday, with 2 000 in Vienna.

"We continue to get only very sparse information from Hungary regarding the operations and planning of their authorities," Austrian Interior Ministry spokesperson Karl-Heinz Grundboeck told Austrian press agency APA.

Further south on the Balkan route, tens of thousands were stranded on the eastern Aegean islands, prompting Greece to add a third ferry this week to the fleet of boats shuttling people to Piraeus, near Athens.

The extra ferry means nearly 7 000 people can be taken daily from the islands to the Greek mainland.

A crowd of around 3 000 on Thursday massed at the Greek border with Macedonia, 550km north of Athens, where police on both sides allows smaller groups to pass and board trains to the north.

Read more on:    hungary  |  austria  |  migrants

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